High school students in the Cook Islands are getting ready to grow their own vegetables in an effort to reduce soaring obesity levels.
Microscopes and soil testing kits are being distributed to four schools as part of a New Zealand Aid-funded project run by Auckland University's Liggins Institute.
An ecologist with the project Steve Wratten says just 15 percent of the fruit and vegetables needed for a healthy diet is grown locally and expensive imported produce is mostly shunned in favour of cheaper processed food
Professor Wratten has been showing students on Rarotonga how to grow healthier food in an interesting sustainable way.
"We'd like this initiative in the schools to be enjoyed and that type of farming is enjoyable. It's quite exciting if you encourage bees or ladybirds into the crop, it's much more exciting than just digging and planting. So we hope that initiative will go from the schools to the families and already we have the Ministry of Education behind us and some key farmers behind us."
Professor Wratten says the first vegetables wil be planted in school gardens next term.